Why You’re Getting More Awkward, And 6 Strategies to Get You Back On Track

There’s no shortage of evidence pointing to the fact that social skills are like a muscle—you use them or you lose them. One of the clearest ways to see this is to look at extreme examples of isolation: prisoners transitioning out of solitary confinement, soldiers returning from combat, and astronauts returning from a month in space. Interestingly, despite how different these experiences are, research shows that each of these groups experience similar socialization problems as they return. 

That’s because people, regardless of introversion or extroversion, are hardwired for socialization. It’s through communication that our ancestors learned to do things like plant a field full of edible plants or chase down a giant bison for food. And it’s because we are hardwired for communication that we suffer when we go too long without it. Studies even show that the negative emotional and physical effects of social isolation are comparable to those related to smoking, obesity, or a lack of exercise. 

Many of us are weakening our long-trained social muscles during the pandemic as our interactions dwindle and go virtual, but the good news is that social skills can be exercised, stretched, and honed back into shape. Here are six strategies you can use to strengthen your social muscle during the pandemic:

1. Know how serious social isolation is. Researcher Dr. Craig Haney extensively studied the impact of solitary confinement on prisoners, and found that those prisoners who rebound after solitary confinement are the ones who treat their confinement as a threat to their health and take steps to counteract it. You can adopt this same attitude and approach to your much less serious threat of isolation during the pandemic.

2. Use remote replacements. Prisoners who transitioned effectively out of solitary confinement went out of their way to replace what they lacked socially, like writing letters and journaling. Using remote options, like phones, Zoom, and Slack can help prevent your social muscle from fully degrading. For example, one of the biggest social holes in remote work is the loss of spontaneous interactions, like chatting with people before and after meetings, or stepping into a colleague’s office to catch up on each other’s personal lives. Manufacture some spontaneity in your remote work by collaborating with a coworker on a project using Zoom or spending some time after a one-on-one to chat about anything other than work. 

3. Get more in tune with how social isolation affects you. A weakened social muscle affects you in unexpected ways. You may feel hypersensitive to the things people say, more cautious, more self-consciousness, more judgmental, and more fearful of interacting than you would have in the past. Perhaps the scariest thing about losing your socialization muscle is that you can easily misinterpret your own emotional reactions. You may leave a Zoom call feeling anxious or angry and attribute that to yourself (guilt about the work you accomplish remotely) or the other person (they don’t respect my time or work). In reality, you’re feeling frustrated over your isolation and anxious because you’re out of practice. 

4. Recognize the ways remote replacements actually hurt you. The lag in videos, disconnection between body language and verbalization, and any other disturbances (even ones we don’t recognize in the moment) require a significant amount of mental energy as your brain attempts to close the gap between what you see and hear and what is really happening. The result is that you often leave calls feeling vaguely disturbed, irritable, and alienated. Knowing this can help you avoid misattributing the way you feel. It can also help you manage your energy and know when you need to step away from your computer to take a break.

5. Do favors for people and expect nothing in return. Doing small favors purely to make someone else feel good is an organic way to build a sense of connectedness and gratitude, even in the remote world.

6. Unplug. So many hours of your day that you devote to your device and your television are hours you’d otherwise be interacting with your family, friends, or roommates. The problem is so serious that one study conducted on children found that there was a direct connection between how many hours kids spent watching television per day and how likely they were to throw tantrums or demonstrate bad behavior in class. The reason? The kids who watched too much television were missing out on development of key social skills. Putting down your devices doesn’t just give you time to recharge from all your electronically expended energy; it literally gives you a chance to look up and connect, even if the people around you are fewer in number. 

From Insights to Action. Hypnotherapist Milton Erickson offers a useful story from his childhood about waking up after a night of snow. He would always rush outside and walk a zig-zagging path through the snow to school. As other kids woke up and walked to school, they would inevitably follow his steps. Even though his steps were inefficient, they were the easiest steps to follow through the snow because the path had already been trodden. This story works well as a metaphor for our habits. Once we’ve walked a certain pathway in our brain enough times, we are more and more likely to repeat that path, even if it isn’t the best one. The point is, as you work to pull yourself out of that feeling of isolation, remember that you’re naturally going to want to return to your old habits even if they aren’t the best ones for you. Put these strategies into action to forge positive social and emotional habits while we continue to work at a distance.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmarteq.com/contact/

One Key Strategy High EQ People Use To Grow Their Self-Awareness

When we talk about emotional intelligence (EQ), we are often talking about someone’s ability to recognize and understand their own emotions. This ability is called self-awareness, and it’s the foundation of EQ. Once you’ve built your self-awareness you can also begin to better manage yourself and your interactions with other people. 

Without a doubt, one of the fastest and most effective ways to improve your self-awareness is to learn how to name your emotions more specifically and accurately. Studies show that people who label their emotions precisely are…

  1. More flexible in their management of negative emotions. 
  2. Less likely to have angry outbursts and better at handling fear and anxiety.
  3. Less likely to use alcohol for emotional coping.

The strategies below will help you learn to label your emotions and develop your self-awareness.

1. Learn the basic families of emotions. There are seven broad categories of emotions that show on someone’s face: anger, happiness, sadness, contempt, surprise, fear, and disgust. These seven are your starting point to search for inside yourself. For intense emotions, naming them acts as a kind of “pause” button slowing your physical reaction to the feeling and bringing the emotion into the realm of rational thought where you can begin to process what you’re feeling and why. This first step can save you from angry outbursts or retracting in silence when confronted.

2. Expand your emotional vocabulary. When you take context into account, the number of emotions we experience is limitless. We don’t quite experience the exact same kind of happiness, anger, or fear. It’s through the understanding the subtle varieties that you begin to really develop self-awareness. Check out this emotions list, which takes into account words for emotions that only exist in other languages. It’s full of words like “toska,” a vague sense of restlessness, “abbiocco,” a sleepy feeling after a big meal, and “umpty,” a feeling of everything being too much and all in the wrong way. By expanding your emotional vocabulary, you’re really getting to know your range of tendencies and triggers. Careful reflection on these emotions will help you access big picture questions about your values, beliefs, and intentions.

3. Practice on books and movies. Movies, poems, and novels offer layered emotional expressions: a specific emotion felt by a specific person during a specific experience in a specific context. As you watch movies and read books, focus deeper into a notable emotion to try to understand each of these layers. When a character shows fear, for example, try to better identify and understand what type of fear. Are they “apprehensive?” Are they “bristling with fear?” Apprehension might come from a sense of self-doubt while “bristling” is much more physical and likely the result of an immediate threat or triggered from a past trauma. You don’t need to worry about finding the right answer. What you are doing is building an important skill – awareness and your ability to analyze emotions as they happen. This practice will not only help you break down your own emotions, but it will also help you build social awareness, or your ability to recognize and understand the emotions and tendencies of others. 

From Insights to Action. Remember that when we are first in the grips of an emotion, it is at its most powerful. This moment of saturated feeling is when we are the most prone to act entirely based on how we feel. Being reactive can lead to poor decisions and regret. Try to slow yourself down, label that big picture emotion family, and give yourself time to process things more logically and with more nuance.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmart.com/contact/. 

Nine Communication Mistakes You Might Be Making

No matter how smart, talented, or experienced you are, there are communication mistakes that can change the way people see you. At TalentSmart, stories shared with us in our training programs and coaching work suggest poor communication habits can even hold you back from reaching your full potential.  Here are nine common communication blunders that hold people back. Take a close look at each of these mistakes to see where you might be missing the mark: 

Letting your emotions dictate what you say.

“Let’s not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives and we obey them without realizing it.” -Vincent van Gogh

When you react to your emotions in the moment, you are more likely to say something impulsive, half-baked, or not true to your values and beliefs. You can’t learn to prevent your emotions from happening (nor would you want to), but with a bit of practice you can teach yourself to slow down, recognize your emotions as they come, and prevent your emotions from hijacking your words. In fact, the very foundation of emotional intelligence (EQ) is your ability to recognize, understand, and manage your emotions so that you can work and live with them, instead of around or against them.

Using language of uncertainty. Small turns of phrase can make a big difference when you communicate. Over-using phrases like “I think” instead of “I believe,” or “I might” instead of “I will,” can detract from your core message. Similarly, ticks in our communication—such as saying “like” or “uhm” too often—can make you sound unsure of yourself. 

Saying too much. “Wise people speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.” –Plato

When it comes to consuming information these days, people have access to way more content than they could ever want or need. To keep people engaged in what you have to say, you have to make every word count. At its worst, saying too much can sound like a spoken stream of consciousness, jumping topics at random and never getting to your point.

Saying too little. We listen to our own thoughts constantly. So much so, we tend to think that people have access to our thoughts. They don’t. The result is you can easily leave gaps between your intentions and what you say. Another way you could be saying too little is by holding back important feelings that you can’t muster the courage to bring up.

Thinking you already communicated. A Stanford study found that people naturally overestimate how well other people understand what they say and what they mean. Because of this tendency, it’s especially important to slow down and really get your ideas across to others. The way people respond in body language, questions, and comments can tell you a lot about how your message is coming across—or if it is coming across at all for that matter.

Not connecting on a personal level. Communication is a two-way street, and read from the script delivery cuts your audience out of the message. Whether you’re communicating with one person or an auditorium full of people, why does what you have to say matter to them?

Trying too hard to persuade. People are by nature reactive, and they shut down if you barrage them with critical comments and opinions. You’re better off sharing key ideas, interesting stories, and examples, then letting your audience connect the dots.

Getting your tone wrong. If you’re interviewing for a job, it’s important to demonstrate how passionate and excited you are about the work you will be doing. If you’re giving a lecture, it’s probably a good idea to demonstrate a high degree of passion about your topic. If you’re a doctor, you need to convey professionalism, a sense of calm, and trustworthiness. When tone misaligns with message, communication breaks down.

A weak close. People naturally pay extra attention to how you finish. Research shows that people remember your closing better than other parts of your message, and even attribute more value to it than the rest of what you said. Whether it’s a presentation, making a sale, or finishing up an interview, people will pay an inordinate amount of attention to how you close the conversation. Try to make it memorable, whether that means adding a nice personal touch in a one-on-one or a dramatic last story to cap off your presentation. 

From Insights to Action. Do you know which communication blunders you make? Post this list at your work station and try to spot as many as you can in your conversations and emails. Instead of seeing each slip-up as a “problem,” make them your targets to correct in the coming year.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmart.com/contact/. 

The Value of EQ Feedback

Tai is known around his office as a “people person” and is a well-liked sales manager. His interpersonal skills are energetic and fun, and he’s incredibly empathetic and supportive to his team. During his end-of-year reviews, his director always comments on his emotional intelligence as a strength. But when it comes to Tai’s team’s sales performance this year, he’s starting to fall a bit short compared to the other managers around him. His team’s numbers aren’t keeping up and he doesn’t know why. He feels like he’s always hearing how important EQ is, but now it’s failing him.

Tai is falling prey to a common misconception about EQ: he thinks it can be boiled down to likability, social skills, and empathy. In reality, EQ is made up of a broader set of competencies. While Tai and his director both see how well-liked he is and attribute this to a high EQ, Tai’s EQ is actually imbalanced in a way that’s hurting his performance.

How can Tai better recognize his blind spots? Like athletes watching footage of themselves after a game, or novelists using beta readers before they publish, the fastest way to improve your EQ skills is to get feedback from an outside perspective.

One way is to simply ask people around you what behaviors they see are getting in your way. One person’s perspective may be biased, but a group of observations can help level out biases. For Tai, this might mean asking members of his team or his director. The problem with this approach is that the questions he asks, his relationship with each person, and the way he asks his questions will influence the responses he receives.

A second way to try to improve is to watch how other people succeed. For Tai, he could compare his approach to that of more successful sales managers to see what it is that they’re doing well. The problem with this approach is that what works for one manager with one group of people may not work for Tai with his group.

A third way to get at your tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses is to take an emotional intelligence self-assessment (link) which helps you break down specific elements of emotional intelligence compared other working professionals so that you can better see what you’re doing well and which EQ behaviors to improve. Often, by breaking emotional intelligence down into its parts, you begin to see areas that need your attention or that you hadn’t considered previously.

Perhaps the best way to gather feedback is through a 360 assessment which evaluates both the way you see yourself and the way everyone around you sees you. Your leaders, colleagues, and direct reports assess you on the same emotional intelligence behaviors that you rate yourself on. They also write up comments on your emotional intelligence based on their experience working with you. The results allow you to draw a direct comparison between your self-evaluation and the way others see you. This brings your blind spots to life with both data and specific examples from work. For Tai, he will discover through a 360 assessment that while he’s brilliant at connecting with people, his team doesn’t feel like he really understands their long-term goals or gives them the tough feedback they need to grow.

From Insights to Actions. The good news when it comes to emotional intelligence is that research has proven it’s a highly learnable skill. When you assess your EQ, you immediately begin to build your awareness of your tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses, which all offer a means by which to practice and improve. For a leader like Tai who already has the trust and respect of his team, this heightened self-awareness will set him up to excel as a well-balanced, high EQ leader.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmartEQ’s emotional intelligence products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at www.talentsmart.com/contact/.

How to Reflect on 2020 and Make Your Goals Stick in 2021

“Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.” -Audre Lorde, Poet

Reflection at the end of a year is as tumultuous as 2020 has been intimidating, but it’s through tough times that we learn the most about ourselves. Reflection is not about disingenuous silver linings, phony optimism, or cheesy “life hacks” to solve your problems. Reflection is about getting real with yourself and coming to understand your experiences for what they are—for better and for worse. This year take some time to honestly and seriously consider your experiences, so you can set more impactful resolutions that you are more likely to work at and maintain.

Consider Mónica who reflects on some of her most frequent challenges faced while working in 2020. The one thing that immediately sticks out to her (and to so many people this year) is distraction. She worked longer hours than ever, but she knows she spent some of them distracted. The problem, she realizes, isn’t so much her family, the news, or her phone; the problem is that she isn’t balancing her working life and her home life remotely. At work, she did everything in her power to concentrate so she could leave by six, drive home, and have dinner with her family. At home, she finds herself checking email and staying online even after dinner. The result is a steady stream of weariness, minimal time where she’s actually disconnected, and difficulty feeling “fully engaged” and present with her family at dinner. That’s her honest reflection.

Goal setting is the next step after reflection. Goals that stick are specific strategies or practices you can apply daily. The more specific and clear the behavior, the better. For Mónica, she knows that a sensible goal might be to work on restoring her sense of work-life balance. Rather than just writing down this big, vague goal and giving it a go, she needs to get precise so she can spot what to do differently. Otherwise, she will just fall back on old habits. She remembers how when she worked in a physical office, she would head out the door at six and rarely ever check email or do work once she was in the car and at home. To get more strategic with her goal, Mónica recreates the feeling of leaving her office at six. Each day at six, she will get up from her desk and go for a 30-minute walk before having dinner with her family. That’s a more impactful resolution.

Staying on track with your goals is the next easiest place to falter. Every year 80% of people give up on their resolutions entirely by Super Bowl Sunday and only about 5% succeed through the year. Why? Because creating new habits is surprisingly difficult. Below are three strategies to follow as you try to turn your goal into a habit that sticks by April, May, August or November.

  1. Make the new habit convenient. When something is easy, we do it more often. If there’s always a beer in the fridge, we are much more likely to drink one. Or, if our phone is beside our computer instead of across the room in a drawer, we’re much more likely to check it. For Mónica, walking after work is easy. She can just get up from her desk and walk out the door. If she chose something a bit more difficult, like going to the gym or phoning a friend to go with her, even these little extra steps can get in the way of forming a habit.
  • Substitute part of the old habit with something new. One of the best ways to change a habit is to replace part of the existing one. For example, if you finish your work each day and crack a beer, you might replace the beer with a lemonade or iced tea that’s waiting right there when you get home. A similar substitute works well because you don’t have to create a whole new habit. Mónica substituted her old driving commute with a walking commute.
  • Piggyback your habit onto an existing habit. Our brains tend to respond well to piggybacking because it doesn’t require an entire overhaul of what we were doing before. Instead, you just train your brain to associate your new habit with an existing one. For people who want to use their phones less, they might just drop their phone in the same bowl as their keys then go about their day. For Mónica, stepping out her front door piggybacks off the existing habit of stepping away from her computer at six, and it is effective because she is physically away from her computer when an email comes through her phone. To be sure she’s not tempted when she returns, she can also turn her computer off, not just put it to sleep.

From Insights to Action. From now until January 1st 2021, reflect on that one nagging thing that’s been holding you back, even during this incredibly difficult year. You may be surprised what kinds of honest conclusions you reach and specific solutions you come up with. By choosing only one nagging thing, you’ll also be sure to stay focused and motivated in your effort to change. We’ll try our best to join you. Good luck to us all in the new year to come!

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmart.com/contact/.

Better EQ, Better Performance

In January of 2020, EQ had already topped LinkedIn’s Yearly Report on the Top 5 Most Desired Workplace Skills, and this was before workplace and life challenges faced us all when the pandemic struck. Organizational leaders with savvy insight doubled down on EQ making it an organization-wide priority to help give their employees the tools they need to face the unprecedented in a healthy, productive way.

When we connected with Reid Swanson, a certified EQ trainer at a major southern Californian medical center, he shared exactly this sentiment with us: “As we move to virtual trainings,” he said, “I have a smaller budget this year than what I’d budgeted previous years. But especially with everything going remote and with all the disruptions right now, EQ is one of the things that we especially need to keep emphasizing and making available.”

Swanson’s sentiment is one shared by many of our clients, both old and new, and to help show people why this is the case, we wanted to step back and highlight some of the most important ways that training people in EQ skills can benefit individuals, teams, and organizations:

Better EQ, Better You: EQ skills can radically alter your life. High EQ people perform better at work, make considerably more money, are more effective in their relationships, and they literally live happier, healthier lives.

Performance: At TalentSmart, we tested emotional intelligence alongside 33 other important workplace skills and found that EQ is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs. Of the millions of people we’ve studied at work, 90% of top performers are high in emotional intelligence. On the flip side, just 20% of bottom performers are high in emotional intelligence. High EQ people earn an average of $29,000 more per year than those with a low degree of EQ. The link between emotional intelligence and earnings is so direct that every point increase in EQ adds $1,300 to an annual salary. These findings hold true for people across industries, at all levels, in every region of the world.

Quality of life: EQ literally saves people’s lives. Negative emotions like stress, anxiety, and depression weaken the immune system. Because high EQ people more skillfully recognize and understand their own emotions, they’re more likely to recognize negative emotions and potential stressors. And because they are more skilled at managing negative emotions, they have healthy habits in place to deal with their negative feelings. One study looked at tension, fear, and anxiety in women over the course of twenty years and found that those less skilled at managing their emotions experienced higher levels of stress, and over the course of twenty years, they were twice as likely to develop breast cancer as those women more skilled at managing their emotions. EQ skills not only prevent stress-related disease, but they can also increase the speed of recovery from cancer and heart attacks. EQ skills have also been linked to happiness. People high in EQ know how to make the most of their positive emotions by doing things like savoring good moods, practicing gratitude, learning to view failure as an opportunity to grow, not letting small things interfere with big picture happiness, and learning to derive their happiness from within not without.

Better EQ, Better Team: The bulk of work at organizations is done by teams, and teams are made up of people with varying levels of EQ. This can present a problem on teams that don’t successfully work to improve their group’s emotional intelligence—they may stumble on politics, unnecessary bureaucracy, internal and external conflicts, and miscommunications. But, on high EQ teams, performance of the group can become seamless, full of good ideas and innovations, and can easily exceed the capabilities of any one person alone by playing to key strengths and weaknesses.

Team performance: Teams skilled in EQ are more successful at achieving their goals, problem-solving, and completing tasks quickly than less emotionally intelligent teams in healthcare, technology, and engineering professions.

Team dynamic. Because team EQ skills help teams overcome the complexity of interactions on a team level (between individuals, subgroups, and team-to-team communication), it has easily been linked to a number of team-level skills. Some of the most important include the ability to collaborate cross-functionallydevelop in-group trustestablish group cohesion, and manage stress as a team during emotionally charged situations

Better EQ, Better Organization: Building emotional intelligence into the organization from top to bottom gives everyone a universal framework and vocabulary with which to approach work, and it also improves the bottom line.

Organizational performance: In a seminal case study at L’Oreal, salespeople hired for their emotional intelligence outsold their counterparts by about $90,000 per year for an organizational jump in sales of $2.6 million. L’Oreal’s high EQ salespeople were also 63% less likely to leave their job. TalentSmart training programs in EQ have led to a number of organizational improvements including:

  1. A 40% increase in engineers’ ability to deal with change at a Fortune 200 defense contractor.
  2. A 67% improvement in problem employees’ ability to prevent setbacks from influencing their work at a Fortune 50 telecommunications company.
  3. A 93% improvement in leaders’ ability to handle conflict at a Fortune 500 medical center.

Organizational benefits: When it comes to companies that people tend to work at, stay at, and even recommend to friends, we like to attribute this to “company culture” or “intangibles.” In reality, we are often referring to a company’s ability to build an environment of inclusivity and growth from top to bottom. EQ on the organizational level has been shown to help unify people toward a common mission, encourage prosocial behavior and organizational citizenship, and to make employees less resistant to change. These types of organization-wide benefits enable employees to find mentors, learn new skills, feel like a part of something bigger, and forge deeper, long-term relationships at work.

From Insights to Action. To read more about the benefits of EQ, EQ strategies for improvement, and more, go to www.talentsmart.com/. Or, to learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmartEQ’s emotional intelligence products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at www.talentsmart.com/contact/.

3 Research-Backed Ways that EQ Drives Sales Performance

Barry, takes a week-long sales trip to New York to visit clients. He bounces around the city doing client visits while also juggling his full weekly schedule—meetings with the home office, an existing high maintenance client with demanding last-minute requests, and a challenging new lead who researches online, asks tough questions, and shops as many simultaneous options as she can.

To succeed across this wide array of challenges and people, Barry needs an equally wide array of skills: He needs to be able to switch rapidly between clients and adjust his approach along the way. He needs to manage his stress through busy, high-stakes weeks. He also needs to communicate clearly, be persuasive, inspire clients, and respond flexibly to changing client demands.

To train salespeople like Barry in this array of “soft skills” takes significant time and resources for his organization. The good news is that all these sales skills, and many others, can be boosted simultaneously by practicing one skillset: emotional intelligence (EQ). Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize and understand emotions, and your skill at using this awareness to manage yourself and your relationships with others. Research shows that salespeople high in EQ outperform and outsell those low in EQ. Here are three research-backed reasons why EQ improves critical sales skills:

High EQ sales reps are better at interpersonal skills. To get through his week packed full of meetings and phone calls, Barry constantly relies on his interpersonal skills. He moves fluidly from a demanding client to a new lead to a long-time client who is affable, laid-back and just wants to catch up personally. Each client has their own needs, emotions, and style of communication, and it’s up to Barry to successfully create a positive outcome—whether that’s a sale, rapport-building, or even just inspiring some initial intrigue. In multiple studies on sales reps, high performers were found to be those who excelled at EQ. Like Barry, they read and manage emotions during client conversations, adapting their behavior to fit the situation and influence the buyer. The secret to their success lies in their ability to identify shared feelings between themselves and the buyer, then using these to move forward together.

High EQ sales reps are better at stress management. Leading up to his high stakes week of client visits, Barry is prone to feeling nervous and stressed. Instead of letting his nerves take over, he’s learned to remind himself of past successes. He tells himself that he often thrives under pressure. He just needs to be sure to stick to his usual self-care practices while on the road. He gets to sleep by 10:30, limits himself to just one coffee each morning, and sets aside an hour to exercise before dinner. It’s through his routine that he finds a positive rhythm and the energy to catch up on communications with the home office. This is thriving under pressure. Studies show that high EQ sales reps not only manage their stress more effectively, but they also report feeling less stressed than their low EQ counterparts. On top of that, high EQ people report feeling more positive emotions. This positivity, like Barry showed as he mentally prepared for his big week, is essential to sales reps as they navigate tough clients, tough weeks, and tough months.

High EQ sales reps are more adaptable and creative.When Barry sits down for dinner with a client hoping to close a big deal, the client almost immediately throws a big wrench in his plan. She shares that she’s going to wait three months for her new quarterly budget before she buys anything at all. Barry is upset and fears she won’t end up purchasing come three months from now. But, he recognizes that his future worries can interfere with this very moment. He takes a deep breath to set his worries aside, then asks her questions to learn more about her budget and how she intends to use it next quarter. This allows her to dream out loud and feel even more excited about the possibilities. By the time he leaves dinner, she has agreed to a substantially larger deal than before; he just needed to be patient. Where a low EQ sales rep might have pushed for early commitment in their fear of losing the sale, Barry was able to stay level-headed, see the bigger picture, and adapt his approach to meet the situation at hand.

From Insights to Action.How you sell matters. What your process is matters. But how your customers feel when they engage with you matters more.” –Tiffani Bova

Perhaps the most important finding in emotional intelligence research is that it is a highly flexible skill. With practice, people who measure low in EQ can work to improve a specific EQ skill within six months to a year.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmart.com/contact-us/.

A Story of Remarkable Team EQ: The Maiden Crew

In 1989, Tracy Edwards put together the first ever all-women’s crew to enter the Round the World sailing race. After years of putting together their team, raising funding, and fixing up their boat, The Maiden, the Maiden team’s journey became one that would go down in history for its trailblazing, inspirational story. The team’s race was full of powerful lessons highlighting the power of team EQ.

The Trials. As a warm-up, just a month before the race in 1989, the Maiden team entered a short practice race. From the outset, Tracy (the captain) and Marie-Claude (the first mate) butted heads. Despite reporting to Tracy, Marie-Claude wielded her extra experience to make key decisions without Tracy’s approval. Their clashing boiled over when a crew member broke her wrist only to find that there was no medical kit on board. As they packed the boat before the race, Marie-Claude had gone behind Tracy’s back to instruct the medic not to bring the kit. Angry, Tracy lashed out at the medic who responded, “Quite frankly Tracy, we don’t know who’s in charge of this boat.” Without proper equipment to manage Jo’s injury, the Maiden crew dropped out of the race, and Tracy fired Marie-Claude. The team lost Marie-Claude, and they also lost all of her experience. It was too late to replace her before the big race, and the team was disheartened and anxious for what was to come next.

Team EQ Lesson #1: Speaking up is essential. When two members of a team clash, the whole team feels it. Emotions ran high when Jo broke her wrist, and because the crew was relatively new, they weren’t sure how to deal with the tension. The medic’s response to Tracy (that she isn’t sure who is in charge) was invaluable on behalf of a confused team. By speaking up, the medic shared a problem weighing on the whole team, and this was ultimately the moment that convinced Tracy to fire Marie-Claude. If the medic had been too afraid to speak up, the tense atmosphere may have never cleared. When a team’s emotions fluctuate, it’s a core tenant of team EQ that all members hold accountability for the team and speak up on behalf of the group. Otherwise, extreme dynamics and emotions may pass by or get brushed under the rug, until they come back later on and interfere with the team’s performance.

The First Leg. The team set off nervously on the first 6,000-mile leg from Southampton to Uruguay. They were already down two crew members from their trial run gone wrong, and the journalists, media, and other teams all forecasted, and even bet on, the Maiden crew’s failure. The crew blocked this outside noise and got to work. They assigned roles and split into two teams of five, taking turns on four-hour shifts to sail through the night. Various members, each playing to their strengths, filled in Marie-Claude’s previous responsibilities (like helming the boat). They got off to a slow start, but once the wind picked up, they didn’t just make it to Uruguay; they won the first leg. Then, they won the second leg too.

Team EQ Lesson #2: Team dynamic trumps experience. The team started the first leg nervous. Marie-Claude’s depth of experience made her a source of comfort despite her intensity and constant clashing with Tracy. What happened in the absence of the most seasoned sailor? Things went more smoothly than ever. The team’s internal relationship management became a strength instead of a weakness. Teams skilled at managing their emotions are able to develop a strong sense of trust so that people feel comfortable stepping up and playing to their strengths. Interviewed about the change from the trial to the first leg, the team commented:

  • “All of a sudden, people who weren’t necessarily allowed to step up, stepped up, and were incredibly good.”
  • “Team spirit was very good and became stronger and stronger.”
  • “Our fear that we couldn’t get somebody that could helm the boat in terrible conditions was completely misfounded.”

The Finish: On May 28, 1990, at the end of the last leg, the crew realized that despite their early successes, they wouldn’t be able to win. The team was devastated initially, but as they approached the finish at Southampton, they spotted a dingy full of 12-year-old kids cheering. Then another boat. Then another. A parade of boats escorted the Maiden to their second-place finish. Though they didn’t win the race, thousands of inspired people boated out to celebrate them.

Lesson #3: Team EQ skills elevate teams beyond immediate results. In an interview, Tracy reflected back on the finish of the race saying, “By that time we didn’t need to talk to do any of the maneuvers we did. We thought each other’s thoughts before we were even doing them. I didn’t feel the need to speak. It was just closeness.” This degree of closeness shows a team high in emotion awareness (knowing each other’s emotions even in silence) and internal management (their roles and movements are smoothed out to the point that barely need to communicate). Another team member, Tanja, described the end of the journey saying, “That was a special thing. We respected each other. We trusted each other. There was never an argument.” This describes a team that worked hard to manage their emotions in order to respect each other’s feelings and build successful relationships over time. Respect and trust of this degree has to be built slowly over time and it has to include everyone.This team elevated itself beyond just a high performing team; they became an inspiration to people outside their team. When a team operates from a set of core values, and does so with a high degree of team emotional intelligence, they will continue to grow and succeed even when they fall short of their goals.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmart.com/contact-us/.

How Emotional Intelligence Drives Innovation

When we think about innovation, we usually picture someone quirky and isolated, like Yoshiro Nakamatsu the inventor of the floppy disc. When Nakamatsu had a specific mental challenge, he would head down to the pool, dive in, and hold his breath until he was completely deprived of oxygen. When he surfaced, gasping for breath, he would madly scribble down whatever thoughts he had on a waterproof notepad.

Stories like this of the “lone wolf” innovator are popular, but they overlook one of the biggest factors when it comes to innovation: people.

“Innovation is all about people. Innovation thrives when the population is diverse, accepting, and willing to cooperate.” ~ Vivek Wadhwa, Tech Entrepreneur

Even the smallest innovations (like a tweak to an existing process) often require a vast range of interpersonal skills. One idea typically entails an interruption of an existing way of doing something, winning people over to your idea through clear and persuasive communication, and a collaborative rollout of additional changes and tweaks as the idea comes into fruition. That’s why people high in emotional intelligence (EQ) are better equipped to innovate. They’ve already developed many of the necessary skills to effectively disrupt the people and systems around them.

High EQ people can clear their minds and get objective. Good mood, or bad mood, when emotions run high, they ultimately get in the way of our most creative and productive self. High EQ people experience emotions just as intensely as anyone else, but they are more effective at understanding and managing their emotions. This means when they’re faced with a critical decision or crippling problem, they can step back from feeling overwhelmed and gain that much-needed big picture perspective. This ability to get the bird’s eye view even when emotions run high opens up space for innovation and problem-solving. After all, it’s often when we are faced with problems that our temporary solution becomes a lasting innovation—like the Post-It Note which originated as a failed glue that 3M researcher Arthur Fry began to use at home as temporary adhesive for his sheet music.  

High EQ people lean into their discomfort. It’s hard to imagine how many good ideas have been left percolating in people’s minds because they were afraid to share them in the first place. To innovate you have to disrupt, and to disrupt, you have to get uncomfortable. People push back and even resent you when you change the status quo. Anyone who has heard the phrase, “this is just the way we’ve always done it,” has been on the receiving end of innovation pushback. One of the core tenants of emotional intelligence is to recognize that our habits and comforts can hold us back. On the other hand, when you get in the habit of leaning into your discomfort, a couple things happen: 1) Some discomforts become comfortable 2) You fail, and then you learn and grow. It’s a win-win.   

High EQ people craft emotionally-charged pitches. A dramatic example of the power of a good pitch is when Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers) sought to keep his funding in a 1969 senate hearing before John Pastore, a congressman known for attacking television:

Fred Rogers had prepared to read a 10-minute testimony to Pastore, and just before his turn, Congressman Pastore announced he was tired of hearing people read testimonies. There would be no more reading out loud. Mr. Rogers pivoted and spoke directly to Pastore and the listeners. In less than 4 minutes, and with the lyrics of a children’s song, he addressed trust, expressions of care, and the ability to talk about and manage anger. He also landed 20 million dollars in funding. There’s a lesson to be learned when you watch Fred in action. He didn’t speak fast, he didn’t take the offer to read his 10 minute statement, he wasn’t flashy, and he didn’t use pictures. What he did was take us all back to the child within us and made the case for his innovative approach with children developing a world of future adults able to recognize emotions and manage them productively. Before you set out to win people over to your idea, ask yourself “Who will my idea help and how?” Answering these simple questions will make your effort at disruption more exciting, applicable, and real to your audience, whether it’s a board of investors a congressional hearing, or a five-person team.

High EQ people make the most of their feedback. Ideas and innovations, while often arrived at in a split-second, change and evolve greatly with time. As time passes, outside perspectives come in and unforeseen problems arise. People high in EQ don’t get flustered or discouraged by these nagging problems. Instead, they leverage problems and feedback to grow their idea. They don’t take feedback personally. They sift through it, identifying the helpful comments and the not-so-helpful ones. When high EQ people receive confusing feedback, they question and push to understand it more deeply. The result is that their innovations become more finely tuned more quickly, and they win over allies in the process as they involve other people instead of lashing out at them for differing opinions or pulling away.

From Insights to Action. It’s not just individuals who benefit from high EQ when it comes to innovation. On the organizational level, a high EQ workplace means trust, openness, and inclusivity. As a result, ideas, perspectives, and opinions intersect more frequently, and people, regardless of their level or background, feel unafraid to share, receive criticism, or fail. This degree of openness and trust drives innovation across all levels of the organization.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmart.com/contact-us/.

How EQ Powers Patient Care

“What is remarkable is not merely the consequences of a doctor’s negative emotions. Despite research showing that most patients pick up on the physician’s negativity, few of them understand its effect on their medical care.”
-Jerome E. Groopman, M.D. Chair of Medicine at Harvard Medical School

When it comes to patient care, there’s really no such thing as a simple interaction. With health and money top of mind, patients and their families’ emotions inevitably run high and health care professionals rely on an arsenal of interpersonal skills to navigate these tough interactions.

A TalentSmart certified trainer from a major medical center in California shared one example of patients coming into an imaging center for CT scans. Before they even come in, many patients are already frustrated, angry, and scared. And on top of that, it’s not uncommon for imaging departments to fall behind schedule or experience a mechanical issue. For staff, this means trying to keep patients calm and comfortable throughout their wait and appointment, which often entails long periods of time in a claustrophobic environment. Doing so requires empathy, active listening, immediate connection, a high degree of professionalism, and the ability to adjust their approach to meet each patient’s feelings and needs.

The good news is that all of these necessary “soft skills” can be improved simultaneously by practicing one skillset: emotional intelligence (EQ). Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize and understand emotions, and your skill at using this awareness to manage yourself and your relationships with others.

HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems), the standard patient care survey administered across hospitals, includes 16 questions (of 25 total) about behaviors that can be connected directly to EQ skills. And research over the last decade shows that this overlap of HCAHPS behaviors and EQ skills is more than just a coincidence. EQ drives successful patient care across a variety of positions and experience levels in the hospital environment:

  1. Nurses: Nurses high in social competence are better able to attend to their patients’ comfort. They’re also better equipped to work with a patient’s family or advocate by showing understanding and addressing concerns and questions.
  2. Nursing teams: So much of the work done in the hospital is done by teams, and patients feel the dynamic of the whole team during their stay. It’s incredibly important, for example, for a patient to feel comfortable through the transition from one nurse’s shift to the next. And, it’s important that the patient feels like the team is communicating behind the scenes so that the patient doesn’t have to ask the same questions or repeat the same responses. Teams of nurses high in EQ, especially in the skill of emotion management, are rated by patients as having better overall quality of care and as being more cohesive as a group.
  3. Physicians: Physicians high in EQ have been found to deliver an overall higher level of patient care than other physicians. Physicians who are self-aware and can self-manage are better able to do things like listen actively, choose their words wisely as they share difficult news or complicated information, and deliver thoughtful care.
  4. Surgeons: High EQ has a very positive effect on patient-surgeon relationships. Specifically, this study found that surgeons high in EQ built greater rapport more quickly because they were better able to empathize with patients and express empathy in a way that resonated with the patient.
  5. Medical students, residency, and beyond: Beginning with medical students, studies have found that students with higher EQ ratings scored more highly in patient care surveys. The trend persisted through residency and up into the level of doctor. For medical students, EQ skills can help them establish trust and professional respect from patients. It can also help them learn by developing strong relationships with doctors and other staff.
  6. All hospital staff: One of the most interesting findings with emotional intelligence in healthcare comes from a study in Greece where they found that different staff relied on different aspects of EQ to succeed on the job. Physicians relied heavily on self-management to deal with stress and workload, nurses on self-awareness and social awareness to manage their constant stream of human interactions, and administrative staff on relationship management skills to navigate the variety of conversations from patients and other staff.

From Insights to Action. Perhaps the most important finding in emotional intelligence research is that it is a highly flexible skill. With practice, people who measure low in EQ can work to improve a specific EQ skill within six months to a year.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmart.com/contact-us/.